Forums offer a chance for community dialogue | SierraSun.com

Forums offer a chance for community dialogue

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun

A handful of individuals filed into a meeting Thursday evening called by the Kings Beach Business and Citizen’s Alliance to discuss the planned development of the Kings Beach commercial core.

Compared to the grassroots group’s boisterous meeting two weeks earlier, when 80 participants sharply questioned Placer County Deputy Director of Public Works Ken Grehm, Thursday’s meeting with nine attendees was calm and comparatively quiet.

But participants still voiced their concerns about the Commercial Core Improvement project with passion.

At both meetings, alliance members expressed frustration with the project’s public process. Some said they felt their concerns were disregarded and remained unacknowledged.

“It is an absolute absurdity that [officials] can claim it is a consensus at all,” Dave McClure had said at the June 14 meeting.

Meanwhile, roundabout advocates believe that community consensus was indeed reached.

“I feel that most people feel that consensus was reached within the community by the [workshop] process,” said board member Carol Savary of the North Tahoe Business Association.

The Kings Beach Business and Citizen’s Alliance was formed after the Sierra Business Council announced the outcome of May’s public workshops was a hybrid between Alternatives 2 and 4, featuring roundabouts, wide sidewalks and one travel lane in each direction with a center turning lane.

The Alliance is lobbying for Alternative 3, with four lanes and stoplights. The members have invested time in research and planning, and aim to consolidate the group and increase their presence through semi-weekly meetings, columns and letters, said the Alliance’s Meera Beser.

“We’re doing a lot of extensive research that shows that the two-lane and roundabout alternatives, although very attractive, really cost the community too high a price,” Beser said.

Executive Director Cheri Sprenger of the North Tahoe Business Association has also dedicated hours of her time, going door to door to interview Kings Beach businesses.

Sprenger said her research has validated the business group’s support of Alternative 4, with roundabouts and wide sidewalks, with modifications including a reevaluation of on-street parking.

“Everything we’re finding and the feedback we’re receiving is consistent with Alternative 3,” Savary said.

Stakeholders from both groups have met and engaged in open dialogue that participants say was beneficial.

“We wanted to hear each other; that was the main thing,” said Lesley Bruening of Bruening Associates Real Estate. Bruening is also a board member for the North Tahoe Business Association.

“I hate to do the ‘we-they’ thing because it shouldn’t be,” Beser said. “It was all very civil and very informational.”

Both groups say they want to see an aesthetically pleasing and walkable community that stimulates business traffic but slows vehicle traffic. They disagree on how to achieve that, and the issue of roundabouts complicates the matter.

“There’s not enough room for compromise and roundabouts,” said Jerry Dinzes, a Kings Beach resident and active alliance member.

Dinzes said he felt there were not enough benefits to Alternatives 2 and 4 to justify traffic increases they would cause on Highway 28 and Kings Beach residential streets.

“I don’t think the issue is roundabouts,” Dinzes said. He said instead he felt that the underlying issue was road reduction.

Kings Beach resident and roundabout advocate Mike LeFrancois disagreed with Dinzes.

“It’s a balance of a number of issues: Traffic, pedestrians, economic vitality and safety,” LeFrancois said. “When you put all those issues on the table, three lanes is definitely the best.”